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Friday, July 14, 2006

CIS Jubilee Pilgrimage: A Jubilee Gift

By: Riza Carasig

The Ignatian Pilgrimage is a retreat giver’s dream come true, a meeting of intense desires that cannot but find fulfillment. This was how our previous article described the pilgrimage being organized then by CIS. And we, who in one way or the other have been involved in this ministry of retreat-giving and spiritual direction, began to witness the unfolding and fulfillment of such a dream as we found ourselves together in the early morning of May 2, 2006.

It was the day our group was to leave for a three-week pilgrimage in Spain and Rome. Just a few days before this, we were all wondering how and where we could possibly celebrate mass. There was no concern as to who would say mass for the group since we were blessed to have in our company four wonderful Jesuits: Fr. Noel Vasquez, Fr. Vic Salanga, Fr. Arnie Bugtas and Fr. Totet Banaynal. Where to have the mass that day however was another matter. Hence, one of the early blessings in this pilgrimage came when we were given the permission to have mass at the airport chapel. Our Eucharistic Celebration that morning thus formally signaled the beginning of our pilgrimage. It was also our way of celebrating the birthday of Eva Galvey, former CIS Executive Director.

A Recap of the Pilgrimage ……

We left Manila that same morning, landed in Amsterdam early evening for our connecting flight and finally arrived in Madrid at close to midnight of May 2. We were met by fellow pilgrims Sr. Mely Vasquez, RSCJ and Maria Luna, who both left for Spain some days earlier.

The group stayed at the convent of the RSCJ in Madrid for 2 days and 3 nights. During this time we went to Toledo and Alcala – the place where Ignatius spent time to care for the sick. The place where he stayed was still there and the pilgrims were particularly thrilled seeing the kitchen in the house where Ignatius stayed and the well where he used to preach. In our trip to Alcala, we were joined by Madrid-based Fr. Louis Catalan. Of course, our stay in Madrid would have not been complete without seeing the cultural side of the place. So we likewise went to see the Royal Palace, the Prado Museum and the Plaza Real among others.

We left Madrid early morning of May 5 and made it to Avila where we visited the convent of St. Teresa. We had our mass at the convent’s chapel before leaving for Salamanca on the same day. Upon reaching Salamanca we went to the Spirituality Center of the Jesuits where we were met by its head, Fr Paco Arrondo. Salamanca was significant to Ignatius because it was one of the places he went to study. The group also went to San sebastian Church where Ignatius was allegedly held.

May 6 saw us heading to Loyola with a brief stop at the Burgos Cathedral on the way. We reached Loyola by mid-afternoon and immediately after taking our lunch we went to the Basilica of St Ignatius and of course the Santa Casa, the birthplace of Ignatius. That same day we met Fr. Lucio, the head of the Spirituality Center. And like in Salamanca, we had a glimpse of the work of CIS Philippines’ counterpart on this part of the globe. The pilgrims seemed not to have enough of the previous day’s visit to the holy house that majority of us opted not to go to the scheduled tour of San Sebastian and chose to spend the day relishing the place. Good choice for most of us because that gave us time to see Ermita de Magdalena, the chapel that was frequently visited by Ignatius. It was here where Ignatius was said to have formed his devotion to the Blessed Mother. The highlight of our visit in Loyola was the Sunday mass held at the Chapel of Conversion.

Even if we wanted to stay longer in the place of Ignatius, we could not keep his other companion waiting so off we went to Javier, the birthplace of Francis Xavier on May 8. But before reaching Javier, we first made a stop-over at Pamplona and there we saw the very spot where Ignatius was hit by a cannon ball. It was beside the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church where a small chapel was dedicated to Ignatius. As we reached Javier, we immediately had mass at the chapel of Francis Xavier. Touring the castle of Javier was another experience for us. On our way out of the castle, we had a chance to pray and spend some quiet time before the image of the “Smiling Christ.”

The following day, May 9 was a long travel for us as we headed to Manresa. But the long trip was certainly worth it. In La Cova de St. Ignasi we spent the next 5 days in silent-retreat. And again we were blessed to see and pray in the places where Ignatius went to during his stay in Manresa. We held our daily mass at the very cave where Ignatius retreated and wrote the Spiritual Exercises. Aside from the cave most of us found the banks of the Cardoner River, the La Guia Chapel and the Basilica of Seu as our sacred spaces for prayer during the retreat. On our last day in Manresa, we had our Ignatian walk. Ignatius spent nearly a year in this place and many known and little known places became very important and significant to him.

We left Manresa on May 16 and went to Montserrat on the same day. Interestingly, the mountain of Montserrat could be seen from La Cova and was a beautiful site for us to behold during the retreat. We heard mass at the Church of our Lady together with the hundreds of other pilgrims that were there. As we know, Montserrat was very important to Ignatius because this was where he offered his sword, the sword that meant a lot to him, before he went to Manresa.

After Montserrat we went to Barcelona and stayed there until May 19. Like what we did in Manresa we also had our Ignatian walk here, visiting the places that were significant to Ignatius. It was also in one of the churches that we visited and had our mass where we saw the actual sword that was offered by Ignatius in Montserrat.

The Spain leg of the pilgrimage ended on May 19. From Barcelona some of us went back home to Manila, some stayed behind for Madrid and the majority flew to Rome. In Rome, we found ourselves well taken care of by the 3 Rome-based Filipino Jesuits. Fr. Vic Baltazar welcomed us at the airport and was with us each day. We toured the Vatican on the day we arrived with Fr. Joe Quilongquilong as our able tour guide. We then went to the Curia to meet the Fr. Edward Mercierca, SJ Head for Spirituality and also to have our mass there. On our 2nd day, we visited La Storta together with Fr. Eric Eusebio, and the seven basilicas that Ignatius and his companions went to. We proceeded to Colegio San Belarmino for our mass and dinner (courtesy of the Philippine Ambassador to the Vatican). Finally on our last day, we had our Ignatian walk in Rome and had our closing mass in Gesu. We ended the pilgrimage at the very room where Ignatius’ earthly sojourn ended.

A Brief “History” of this Pilgrimage........

If you missed our pre-pilgrimage article, let me share with you a portion of what fellow pilgrim Lynn Enriquez wrote. “To better appreciate the significance of this event, allow me to go back to another trip, this time to Baguio, one early morning in January 2004. Eva Galvey who was then the Executive Director of CIS and Oyet Bustamante of EMMAUS were on their way to give the Spiritual Exercises to some members of SJSA. Fr. Noel Vasquez, SJ and the SJSA retreatants were with them. As Fr. Noel, Eva and Oyet chatted about the events and activities of the Society, there was a realization that the two retreat givers have been giving the Exercises for years and yet have not been to the Ignatian sites. Thus was born the idea of putting together a pilgrimage and a retreat for those who have been giving and continue to give the Exercises. As an interested listener, I sensed that Fr. Noel was moved to express his and the Society’s thanks to Eva and Oyet, not just for their work with SJSA, but for all the self giving that is part of and has marked all the 20 plus years they have been in the apostolate.

Fast forward to mid 2005, Fr. Arnie is now the ED of CIS while Eva has moved on to EMMAUS to re-join Oyet. In a meeting with Tina Mossesgeld, CIS Program Manager, who Fr. Arnie has requested to plan the pilgrimage – Fr. Noel has enlarged the original group of retreat givers to include those who have done the Exercises and are potential retreat givers and another circle to include those who desire to have a personal experience of Ignatian spirituality.”

Our Heartfelt Thanks ……

The pilgrims cannot but sincerely thank the people who thought of the pilgrimage and really worked hard for it to become a reality. The support of the SJ Philippine Province was one of the forces that made the pilgrimage possible: from Fr. Danny Huang and Fr. Noel Vasquez to Fr. Arnie Bugtas, Fr. Vic Salanga and Fr. Totet Banaynal. And of course, our dear Jesuits in Spain and Rome: Fr. Louis Catalan, Fr. Vic Baltazar, Fr. Joe Quilongquilong and Fr. Eric Eusebio.

Likewise, to quote our pre-pilgrimage article, “Special mention needs to be made of the invaluable contribution of Maria Luna, the Espanola Teresiana who is turning out to be a natural travel organizer.” Much credit is due Maria for having planned so well the trip. Maria introduced us not only to her country but to her family as well. Her father, Papa Antonio and sister, Pili were such a welcome presence in the pilgrimage.

Lastly, one can be certain that in the heart of every pilgrim is a profound gratitude to God for the blessing of this pilgrimage. A friend once asked me as she was listening to me recount the pilgrimage if it would have to take another 50 years, hence another jubilee celebration, before a similar pilgrimage could happen. Indeed, how truly meaningful and significant this pilgrimage was because we had it on this special year – the Jubilee Year of the 1st Companions. And so our heartfelt thanks also to the 1st Companions – Ignatius, Francis and Peter – for having gifted us with such a wonderful jubilee present.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Impressions of Ignatian Pilgrimage

(Maria Luna shares with us her thoughts on the pilgrimage and that of her father - Papa Antonio, sister - Pili and our driver companion - Javier. Except for Barcelona, Pili joined us throughout the Spain leg of the pilgrimage. Papa Antonio was with us up to Rome. And Javier who drove for the group from Madrid to Manresa was very much part of the pilgrimage too.)


I am very, very happy to have joined this trip. I found all the participants to be good people, very kind to me and relating well even if we did not share same language. They expressed in many ways that they appreciated my being there that is why I felt very comfortable being with them. Thus, I was inspired to write some good wishes for all of them and I was impressed to see their reaction of welcoming to those simple words.

Personally, the trip has been an encounter with Ignacio de Loyola, a saint I have heard of but I did not know much about. During the trip I have been getting pamphlets everywhere we passed by, by now I have read all including the 2 good ones you gave me as a gift in Rome about the lives of Ignacio and Javier. All that made an impact on me, I would like to be a better person and help others to be the same. I do what I can among the old people of the Day Care Center for the elderly where I spend most of my time.

Thanks to all of you for allowing me to have this experience. I also requested my daughter to tell you that I asked her that I will be seated on the place where I was in the bus because as an old person I have some quirks, there is where I feel more secure when I travel.


The best about the trip has been to know you all! There have been thousands ways of communication between us. I found you happy, simple, generous and prayerful people.
I will always remember you and even more because you all wrote something to me and from time to time I read the translation of it all. You left in me unforgettable memories.

Together, we have discovered more Spain, Ignacio and Javier and also the Jesuits and how well they work and treat people. Ignacio has imprinted a footprint in me and I remember him everyday. I notice since the trip I want to give a special value to every person and circumstance I encounter for not to fall in superficiality of worldly things.

Hasta pronto y hasta siempre amigos!


This trip has been very special to me. I have never brought a group like that. They are all happy, very well mannered, treating me like one of the group, they are quite young and beautiful and still they pray, they give importance to things of the Church even if they are learned people. I am an ordinary young Spanish person who even if baptized in the Catholic Church, has not been mindful of it. That is why I was very surprised to see this group. They made a big impact on me, so much that after leaving them in Manresa, I cried and I thought there are things of my life that have to change. I started to pray the way I know and now I am telling my wife we have to pray together.

I was very happy to know the place after which I am named: Javier. I got some information about Saint Francis Xavier and I am reading it.

Regards to all peregrinos.


I am very happy and very grateful for having joined the Pilgrimage starting from the months of preparation up to the end. All throughout it has been a good learning experience and deep spiritual one of self-knowledge and encounter with God in many different ways.

It was the first time I had been in the organization and acted as a guide of a trip. This helped me to get to know how to get places, contact people, make and change certain decisions, look for funds to contribute to it, find cheaper but good places, get along a group… A times, during the trip, I felt tired and I saw myself in charge of almost all that was going on. That, even if hard, made me see and understand other aspects of the group and of my person that I took for granted before. But in that and through that, God made Himself present and very close to me. I really felt He was guiding us all the time.

Getting closer to Ignacio has also been of great spiritual help to me. At the same time I was feeling proud of such a Spanish saint, I was absorbing more his spirituality, his ways, and his impetus to work and pray. Getting in contact with his places and his people encouraged me a lot in my own life.

I like to thank you all for your collaboration, for making the whole trip a good one, for sharing your lives and for praying the way you do it. You are good people and that is what makes the difference! It has been a pleasure to be with you during this May 2006. I also like to ask for forgiveness for my impatience and my pushing you hard.

An Ignatian Journey Remembered

By: Edith L. Ontiveros, OSU

Almost two months ago now, the Center for Ignatian Spirituality (CIS), Philippines organized an Ignatian pilgrimage for staff, volunteers, collaborators and friends. The three-week journey brought us to Ignatian Spain and Rome. Together we shared the experience of visiting Ignatian places, celebrating liturgy, praying, sharing our on-going reflection not to mention the ordinary and mundane activities of listening, eating, loading and unloading luggage, waiting etc.

Experience of its very nature is difficult to capture in words simply because it happens in the being and doing of the present moment. However, our lives are enriched through the sharing of experiences and the telling of stories. So here I attempt to share some of my memories associated with the Ignatian places central to my ongoing spiritual journey.

There was the ‘conversion room’ or convalescent room of Inigo in the family castle in Loyola. I was moved to deep prayer as I reflected on Aqui se entrego a Dios Inigo de Loyola. As I examined the surroundings of the small room and gazed at the ceiling the way Inigo would have done as he lay wounded - experiencing physical pain, anxiety and despair, I recalled the times in my life when I felt helpless and almost hopeless. Fortunately for Ignatius, providence stepped in and he was able to turn despair to deep thoughts after reading and rereading Ludolph of Saxony’s Life of Christ and The Golden Legend, a book on the lives of saints. These two books got him so absorbed and introduced him to Jesus Christ who changed his way of living. I imagined the peace, the freedom and glow in his soul as he
entrusted himself to God, opening a new world for him. I too experienced deep peace recalling past experiences of surrendering and entrusting difficult decisions in God’s hands.

There were three places in Manresa that called forth much devotion – the cave, the Cardoner River, and the place of Rapture. The times I prayed in the cave during the five-day retreat in Manresa were nothing compared to the ten months Ignatius spent there. However, in the cave, I identified my heart’s deepest desire not without the conflict and struggle that Ignatius himself would have experienced as depicted graphically on the marble altar piece. But like Ignatius, I also experienced enlightenment and illumination by the Cardoner River.

For several years now I have been intrigued by Ignatius’ mystical experience by the Cardoner. I have asked several Jesuit friends to explain what happened there but I was never satisfied by their responses. Perhaps I have not quite understood or captured the spiritual journey of Ignatius then as I do now. After the experience of praying in the cave and reflecting by the Cardoner, I understood the effect of the Cardoner experience as “a magnet pulling into unity and integration the iron filings of the pieces of Ignatius’ whole previous life”(Walter Farrell, S.J.). In the place of ‘rapture’ in Manresa, I received the gift of tears. I was so deeply moved as I prayed and kissed the feet of Ignatius (lying in rapture!) that a tear dropped as I stood up. In that moment, I received the grace I asked for during the retreat in La Cova and quietly savored it as we sang and prayed in silence.

The camarette, in Rome where Ignatius governed the Society and spent the last, and not the least easy, remaining years of his life filled me with awe. The restored rooms evoked reverence and prayer. The chapel where he died and the Holy Family painting which he had special devotion to, testify to his relationship with Jesus and Mary throughout his life.

From Azpeitia (Loyola) to the heart of Ignatian Rome, I experienced an ever deepening and developing relationship with Jesus that reminded me constantly of the central purpose of the Spiritual Exercises. What made the five places personally significant (at least in this pilgrimage of May 2006) are the moments of deep prayer, the desires that surfaced and got expressed in the colloquys, the graces received and the responses and resolutions made for the future. These were made possible by the overwhelming spirit that permeated our journey together appropriately expressed in “the whole group of believers was united, heart and soul…” (Acts 4:32). There was a genuine spirit of openness and generosity as well as depth of prayer and reflection. It was indeed a privilege to take part in this ‘once in a lifetime’ Ignatian pilgrimage. While it was an affirming experience, it was also a challenge to continued growth and commitment to the collaborative ministry of the Center of Ignatian Spirituality, Philippines.

Jubilee Excerpts

By: Sr. Mely Vasquez, RSCJ

Ignatius’ transhistorical or spiritual pilgrimage takes place, in the Autobiography, within the context of his historical pilgrimage, but the two levels are not co-terminous nor do they always have the same peak points. They are symbiotically related, taking place within the one man Ignatius who is both historical actor and recipient of spiritual impressions, his activity and mystical experience being inextricably linked. “Mysticism is an interior pilgrimage, pilgrimage is exteriorized mysticism” (Victor Turner and Edith Turner, Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture, p.7). What the pilgrim wears and eats, his manner of conveyance—these are for all to see. But “what is secret in the Christian pilgrimage is the inward movement of the heart” (Turner, 8).

Ignatius’ Autobiography presents the life journey and transformation of a sixteenth-century Spanish soldier into one of the greatest spiritual leaders of all time. In it we see how his religious milieu and culture gave him an ideological framework, life-models, and behavioral patterns to guide him in his search. The medieval church had provided him with a heritage of sacred places, saintly exploits, and ritual acts that had been the security of spiritual sojourners.

At the outset of his pilgrimage, the apparent foci of his journey were the famous sacred places and institutions, Jerusalem and Rome, the geographical and political centers of religious power. But these provided to be tangential to his depth experiences which took place in unnoticed, out of the way places and occasioned by personal limit situations.

The irruption of God in these unexpected ways relativized his attachment to the fixed centers assigned by his religion. God gave him a center in via: in the core of his person. This remained the locus of his encounter with God as he moved towards places and circumstances, engaging himself with people and events. In this sense, God was now everywhere present to Ignatius. “Each time and hour that he wanted to find God, he found Him” (Autobiography 11, 93).

The climax of Ignatius’ pilgrimage liberated him from the ambiguities of his culture; though remaining a man of the Church and in union with the community of which Rome and Jerusalem were centers, it was now given him to find his goal beyond them.